Double (GF) or Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Looking for Thanksgiving? Try my THANKSGIVING, AN INTIMATE VIEW (Redux) or click “Thanksgiving” in the subject cloud for more info than you really wanted.

There really is a song, “If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake,” and somewhere in my stacks, I even have the music for it. This chocolate cheesecake, which can be made gluten-free (Double Chocolate with a nut crust) or not (Triple Chocolate with a chocolate wafer cookie crust), is without a doubt the cake you’d bake were someone ultra-special about to knock on your door. The wonderful original recipe by well-known baker and writer Abigail Johnson Dodge (author of the fun new book SHEET CAKE) is one I found in FINE COOKING magazine — or on its website–a number of years ago. (The famous site is no longer available, more’s the pity, though another site does have the recipe. See TIPS below.) I’d make it for one person’s birthday and someone else would say, “Can I have that cake for my birthday?!” Or I’d carry it to a dinner party only for the host to pull me to the side and whisper in my ear, “I’d really love that recipe!” It’s just that kind of cake. Everyone craves it, especially chocolate lovers. Even fine fruit folk (my apple and cherry pie people) have been known to ask for an extra slice to take home.

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Chicken-Mushroom Bolognese

Looking for Thanksgiving? Try my THANKSGIVING, AN INTIMATE VIEW (Redux) or type Thanksgiving into the search box for more info than you needed.

Over the years, I’ve made Bolognese sauce almost exactly like the world famous Marcella Hazan’s recipe or just as Tyler Florence or Aida Mollenkamp thought it should be done and it’s always lovely any of those ways. Aida’s version (scroll down for info) is the one I’ve used for my lasagna for many moons and there’s nothing, nothing, nothing like it. (That recipe, more’s the pity, is no longer on the internet to my knowledge. Sad. Print your favorites, friends!) Even my sister, who doesn’t particularly like to cook, has made it. This time, I simply went ahead and fixed it just as I wanted to.  Which meant a little more tomato than Tyler and a lot more tomato than Marcella and, the biggie–I made it, ye gods and little fishes, with chicken, mushrooms, and bacon instead of with Aida’s (and many other cook’s) veal. Bolognese, the real deal, has just a little tomato and no herbs at all save parsley; it’s meat sauce with milk (I know–but you won’t taste it) and is served with a little sauce and a ton of pasta.  Like 1 cup of sauce to 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 pounds of pasta.  Nothing like Americans are used to.  Perhaps because we eat pasta as a main dish. Italians use pasta as a first course -primo–served between the antipasto and the secondo, which is a meat or fish dish or our main dish/entrée.  I like it sort of in between, but I do want a little more sauce and meat to the meal because I like it that way. Period. And this time? I wanted lot and lots of chicken. Chicken? Why chicken?

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Apple-Cheddar Corn Muffins

Looking for a few bakers away from altitude (I’m at 6,800 ft.) to test drive this recipe and let me know how it did by commenting at the bottom of the post. Altitude bakers are welcome, too, of course–but I mostly need folks at sea level or not too far above. American east or west coasts, south, midwest –all fine. Countries abroad at sea level, you know who you are. Thanks!!

My mom, born and raised near McComb, Mississippi, was the cornbread maker in our family. Black as coal on the outside and yellow like salty sunshine on the inside, her no-recipe cornbread — hot or cold — gave shape to our days. The cast iron pan graced the table at a tomatoes and green beans summer suppertime and then you could sneak into the kitchen of a morning and cut yourself a little piece for breakfast to keep from getting coffee tummy. If you were lucky, there might be an afternoon snack of cornbread topped with sour cream and honey. (And if there wasn’t cornbread, you’d do the same with biscuits.) In the evening, my dad would crumble a big slice into a glass and then fill the glass with buttermilk, eating the whole kit and caboodle with a big spoon.

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One-Pot Pumpkin-Tomato Orzo

Shown here without the fried sage leaves.

This time of year, there are pumpkin spice jokes ad nauseam and while I don’t particularly love the idea of pumpkin spices unless they’re in a pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, I do, do, do love me some pumpkin. From one year to the next, one shelf in my garage storage pantry is smack full of pumpkin. I’m not afraid there’ll be a shortfall, though that almost happened in recent memory, I just know year-old pumpkin in the can tastes better than this year’s pumpkin — especially for pie, but really for anything. This often repeated tidbit is one of many my father-in-law Gene Morgan (longtime Jewel-Eisner grocery merchandiser) passed on to me early in my marriage. (There’s also that I might want a loaf or two of pumpkin bread mid-July when a can of pumpkin might be a tad difficult to locate at the store. Just look next year and see if I’m not right.) When Gene, not a big talker per se, gives you a little grocery tip, you’d best file it away and not forget it. At 19, for instance, I learned to rinse off the top of any can I was about to cook with or drink out of. His graphic description of certain sorts of insects running across the floors of grocery warehouses wasn’t something easily forgotten. And why hadn’t my mother told me this? (She might’ve and I might not have heard her, too.) Thank goodness Gene filled me in and kept us from whatever diseases roaches impart. By the way, they include things like listeriosis, plague, and dysentery, to name but a few. Ewwww.

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Pizza Egg Bake

No matter how old you are, you probably have a memory of eating pizza for breakfast. While I no longer indulge in such juvenile adventures, I remember them vividly. They began during college (little pizza in my childhood as my parents thought it was junk food) when waking too late to make it to dining hall breakfast, we’d grab now-stiff slices out of a cardboard box and shove them down our throats as we ran or biked to class with little hope of making it on time. Was there alcohol involved? Well. Years later, I won’t say I never repeated the scenario after getting my own kids off to school and running for the car to get to my own teaching or library job. My kids would not have been happy at my snarfing down their favorite leftovers with little thought. Somehow I don’t remember it ever coming up, but I’ll bet it did.

Today’s recipe and post does away with the need for such disgusting (ok, fun) breakfasts because I’m here to sell you on my newest morning recipe deal. And cold it ain’t. Casserole, strata, egg bake, brunch dish, whatever you want to call it. You might be like me and have a favorite egg casserole you’ve been making for years and, if you do, good on you. Keep making it; everyone loves it. But just once, give this new very pizza-ish oh-so-crispy version a chance. I promise you’ll be glad you did. It is the stuff of many pleasurable brunches to come.

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Tuna Tapenade

If you happened to be in my house and heard me slurring together a long stream of loud and nasty words from the attached garage, you could correctly guess the freezer door had been left ajar and certain preciously-stored food stuffs had begun to defrost. (Or that a mouse had chewed a hole in something like my best bag of coffee.) Now I’m not dumb and my memory is intact; I always lock the freezer door after grabbing a pack of burgers or a quart of soup. I learned the hard way during Covid’s scarcity months that’s the only foolproof method to insure everything remains at 0 degrees F, which is where you need long-stored food. Somehow in the previous day or two, I had turned the key but perhaps didn’t push the door closed tightly. Luckily (phew and phew again) most things were still hard as a rock, but there were a couple of packages of –sigh– thawing meat and fish out toward the front of the middle shelf. 3 boneless heritage pork chops were tossed into the fridge for another night, but 2 good-sized tuna steaks needed nearly immediate cooking. Had I planned on fish? Did I have anything to go with it? Well, I’d better because there was going to be tuna for dinner.

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Easy Coconut-Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

Based on pantry ingredients, this soup comes together in the flashiest of flashes.
(And, yes, I love “Love Actually”!)

I’m definitely too old for restaurant work, but I very occasionally do a small volunteer catering job if a friend sweetly asks. My caveats are 1. It’s during the day (unless you just want delivery of soup or stew when you’re in personal need) and for a worthy cause. My bedtime is 9pm, you see. 2. The menu is short and sweet since I have to do all of the cooking. My feet simply aren’t what they used to be. 3. The event isn’t for 100+ people. Commercial kitchen, I’m not. 4. I pick my own help. I’m all about having fun whenever I can. This week, one of those perfect jobs arrived that just about fit all of my requirements. A nearly vegetarian soup, salad, dessert lunch menu was on deck for 35 heads of local Colorado Springs non-profits, which means cook for 40. You never know when a plate will fall off a counter, a guest might bring along a friend, or someone’s starving and eats double. Best husband and sous, Dave, along with good friend/caterer Patti came along to help make it all possible as these things can’t be done alone. Huge thanks to Dave for being the master of the commercial dishwasher and to Patti who decorated the tables with vases of flowers from her own gardens. Both of them made salad, served soup, and kept everyone full and happy.

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Barely Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread is the perfect cookie for someone with an egg allergy.

There might not be an easier cookie for changing, dressing up or down, or adding to than a basic shortbread cookie. When it’s Christmas and I need a new cookie, I often give shortbread the nod for just that reason — and because I love it so. What’s not to love? There are few (5) ingredients that go together with no special work or instructions. Chilling time? Sure, but it’s 30 minutes compared to 2 hours for sugar cookies. And shortbread can taste better than sugar cookies, can’t it? Of course it can and it’s perfect with a wee dram some chilly dark night, in case you didn’t know. And thank God it’s getting chilly again.

This week, needing a last cookie to round out a cookie tray for a Friday-night party, I thought I’d make one of my favorite shortbreads. But which one was it? Lemon came to mind, but I’ve only ever done lemon shortbread bars. A fluted cookie sounded right and I knew just the recipe to grab, wrestle with briefly, and know I’d come out with a top-shelf Lemon Shortbread Cookie. I added the word “Barely” to the title as it’s not overly lemon-y. Just enough to still love the shortbread all the while feeling quite happy from the little lemon buzz. Is there anything better than lemon and butter?

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Plum Crumble Tart

Help! I can’t make a tart!! (Scroll down to TIPS for helpful info.)

A person who loves words is sometimes also an over-thinker. Take this, for example. When I consider the word “tart,” I’m not sure which comes to mind first: “tart” as in a one-crust pie usually baked in a pan with a removable bottom or “tart” as in, “Whooee, boys, those apples got me puckering up” or “tart” as in, “a female who is attractive and has the air of being promiscuous, even if she isn’t.” (Thanks, URBAN DICTIONARY, for that last definition.) Now, part of the problem is the English language. I don’t think “tarte” (tart in French) or “torte” (tart in German) or “tarta” (tart in Spanish) pose quite the same predicament. (Is my verb-subject agreement correct in that last sentence? You decide.) But it might and I just don’t know it. While I speak a little of all three of those languages (I can order a glass of white wine in nearly any tongue), fluent I’m not. This week’s post, all about a plum tart that needed baking one afternoon, had my brain not only trying to figure out a recipe for the darned thing, but also kept me awake (well, perhaps for a moment or two…) considering the word, “tart.”

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